Sunday, 31 May 2015

¡ Hola Sevilla !

I blame our daughter....

...When Katie said she was going to Seville with some girlfriends, it triggered memories of our last visit to this wonderful Andalusian city in 1997 and a yearning to return and see how its changed since then...

So, 18 years almost to the day since our last visit, we gave into the temptation and went back to Seville for a short break....

Before you look further, here is a note for our photography friends....apologies for the quality of the images...most are basic jpegs, straight from the camera unprocessed, so no adjustments, cropping or correcting verticals/horizontals etc etc...I am working my way through them...slowly!

We were based in the Santa Cruz area in the historic heart of the city, within easy walking distance of the main historic sights and more recent developments, as well as near a good choice of places to eat out and stock up on food and drink for breakfasts and evenings at home.  

Our apartment had a wonderful roof terrace with views over the rooftops to a nearby church and swifts darting overhead (a careful choice so we had somewhere nice to sit outside in case Steve felt too tired to go sight-seeing).  It also had air conditioning, which was very welcome as it was unseasonably hot for the time of year....not that we are complaining....

On our first full day we spent the morning in the Alcazar - a royal palace with amazing architecture and wonderful Moorish gardens where we had lunch.  

After a siesta, in the early evening we explored the relatively new Metropol Parasols - said to be the largest timber structure in the world - a multi level construction with Roman remains in the basement, shops, cafes and a market hall at ground level, a well used raised piazza at first floor level and a high level walkway with "miradors" (look out places) above.

The next day, we were back with historic Seville in the morning, visiting the cathedral and going up the Giralda bell tower for fantastic views over the Seville skyline.  It's a long climb up: 35 ramps with a 17% incline to a height of 47m then another 17 steps to the miradors on the same level as the bells.  I was concerned that Steve might find it hard going, but he managed without breathing problems (although his knees complained!)  

After another siesta, we revisited the Parasols (or mushrooms as they are known locally) to climb over the roof level this time for more spectacular views.

The following day, we caught a bus to the Island of Cartuja, where we spent the morning in what was originally a monastery, then converted into a ceramics factory and now a centre for contemporary art with some interesting exhibitions.   

After lunch, we explored the area to the north of the monastery which had been the site of Expo 92. 

A number of the international pavilions are still there, some converted to new uses, some decaying gently, others gone completely   It brings home to you the importance of "legacy" when so much public money is invested....

The Plaza de Espania was our destination the next day - a legacy from the 1929 American-Hispanic Exhibition - which is well used and still looking good today...a showcase for the ceramic tiles which (amongst other things!) make Seville famous.  

On the way there, we called in at the former tobacco factory (now part of the University) which is where the opera "Carmen" is set.  No ladies rolling cigars on their thighs....

Our route home took us along the river for lunch in Triana - spiritual home of gypsies and flamenco in Seville

....which got us in the mood for the evening's entertainment - a show in the Flamenco Museum, just around the corner from our apartment.  Thank goodness..I don't think either of us could have walked much further!  The show was terrific - guitarist, male singer and male and female dancers - and the performers gave it their all...

Exhausting but exciting to watch, and a great way to spend our last evening in Seville.

On our last morning, we walked to Santa Justa railway station to leave our bags in the left luggage...

... before catching a bus back to Triana for a quick glimpse of the Ceramics Museum ...

....before a leisurely lunch and glass of "tinto de verano" (red wine with lemonade and lots of ice - very refreshing when the temperature is in the 30s). Then a walk back over the river to catch the bus to Santa Justa to collect our bags from left luggage and take the express bus back to the airport and home.

A packed five nights/six days but very enjoyable!  The doctor who predicted last December that Steve only had a small number of months to live would have been most surprised to see how far Steve walked (and climbed) in Seville.  We enjoyed ourselves so much, we've booked a return trip to another part of Andalusia in the near future.  I don't know how long this "good" spell of Steve's health will last, we we are determined to make the most of it.  

¡Hasta la vista!  .... as they say in Spain  :) 

P.S.  A big thank you to everyone who has sponsored our son Jack for his Dragon Ride over the Welsh mountains - much appreciated looks like he will be doing it in a heatwave...gulp!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

On yer bike!

On 7 June, our son Jack will be taking part in the 2015 Dragon Ride Cycle Sportive.....153 km over the Welsh mountains!

It's a long, tough ride but he is doing it to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support - a very worthwhile cause, in our opinion.

Please encourage him by donating whatever you can afford - even 50p or £1 - it will help boost his confidence and commitment, and every penny will make a difference to people with cancer and their families.  

You can donate online via Jack's Just Giving page.  Just click on this link! 


Get togethers: home and away

We have enjoyed a very sociable couple of weeks since my last post, with get togethers both at home and away...

...trips to Bristol to see our son, including a meal out by the riverside and some more DIY progress, and a visit to see Steve's mum in her care home 

...lunch out in Winchester for me with former colleagues from the Planning Inspectorate

...a party to celebrate the launch of Oxford Artweek, with wocART (Steve's former community art group)

...a visit from Andy, a friend from our student days, who stayed with us for the weekend.  We went museum-hopping; met up with Steve for lunch at the Weston Library; took a trip up to Oxford Brookes University where we studied together, and walked home via Christchurch Meadow and the Thames Path...We also enjoyed looking at photos from Andy's recent trip to New Zealand where they managed to meet up with Hilary, another friend from our student days

...our daughter Katie and partner Ed stayed with us the following weekend for a second birthday celebration; a walk in the bluebell woods at Harcourt Aboretum; a climb up to Wittenham Clumps and lunch out at the Seven Stars community-run village pub in Marsh Baldon

Oh yes...not forgetting raising a glass to Katie on her birthday, and to niece Heather who stood as an "Independents for Frome" (ifF) candidate and was elected to Frome Town Council, where she lives in Somerset.  And a phone call offering me a role in Jersey's new planning appeal system...So quite a lot to celebrate one way or another!

All this socialising and celebrating meant that there was little time to pack/prepare for a short break in Seville, which (as Facebook friends know already) is where we were last week. More of that in my next blog, when I have pictures ready to post.  Here are some teasers in the meantime :-) 

At the Alcazar Palace

At the Plaza de Espania

Evening drink on our roof terrace

Steve is still well.  He has to pace himself as his energy levels are not 100%.  He's also had a bit of hay fever, and suffered with a painful arthritic knee joint.  However, there have been no meso-related breathing problems. Considering we were told back in December that his life expectancy was "a small number of months", this really is quite remarkable!   

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Va Va Voooooom into May!

Back in December when the Doctor considered Steve's life expectancy to be a "small number of months", I wondered whether he would still be alive for our wedding anniversary this year, let alone able to enjoy it....But he's still here and still enjoying life.

We had been thinking about a short drive in a fast car for some time now.  What better way to celebrate our wedding anniversary on 1 May than hire an open top Caterham 7 sports car for the day and go off on a tour around the Cotswolds? So that's what we did!

The Anniversary selfie
Getting into and out of the car was perhaps the trickiest bit. There are no doors.  You have to lift yourself over the side panel and slide down into the narrow tunnel under the bonnet. The four point seat belts also take a bit of getting used to, as does the small removable steering wheel. But once installed and after a couple of practice runs around the block with the Caterham's owner Rob, Steve and I set off together on our anniversary adventure using National Trust tea rooms as convenient stopping points on our tour.

Fist stop, Charlecote Park for a comfort break, coffee and cakes....

Charlcote Park

Then on to Hidcote via narrow hilly Cotswold roads for a walk around the gardens followed by lunch....

Hidcote Gardens

In the afternoon, we drove on to Cleeve Hill to take in the view of Cheltenham, then drove up the motorway towards Worcester to enjoy a bit of speed before stopping at Croome Park for tea and a shared cake and a chat with a stranger who was impressed by the car.

Last stop was Stratford-upon-Avon, where we were were stopped by another chap who was impressed by the car, then on to refill the petrol tank before dropping the Caterham back to base at The Open Road classic car hire company near Warwick.

Reflection in the Caterham 7 head lamp

We had spent the day sitting a few inches off the ground, feeling every bump on the road, with the wind threatening to blow away cap and head scarf and deafened by engine noise... and we had thoroughly enjoyed every minute!  Here is just a short taster....

Although we were travelling much faster and in greater comfort on the journey back to Oxford in our own car, it wasn't nearly as much fun!  

What a great way to celebrate a wedding anniversary that we weren't sure we would both be able to enjoy just a few months ago.  

At home waiting for us was a copy of a letter written by the meso/lung nurse specialist Hannah to our GP following up our meeting with her on 20 April.  I am not going to quote the whole letter, but just a couple of extracts from which brought big smiles to our faces:

"It was a pleasure to review Mr Wride in clinic today.  I am pleased to say he is much improved since finishing the trial last year...Since discontinuing the trial and finishing his palliative radiotherapy, he has made a steady and significant improvement....He has slowly regained his strength...I would now consider him as performance status 0-1....I was really delighted to see and hear about what an improvement Steve has made since the end of last year..."

Thank you Hannah!  It's a relief to know that your share our assessment of Steve's condition, and that the improvement is not just wishful thinking on our part....what a wonderful way to end a wonderful day :-)